The Practice of Piety—a Puritan
devotional manual, directing a Christian how to live, that he may please God
by Lewis Bayly (1611)
Directions for comfortable walking with God
"But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generations. Noah walked with
God." (Genesis 6:8-9)
In this dreadful and dismal story of the old world's
degeneracy and destruction, falling away, and final ruin—here stands in my
text a radiant and illustrious star, shining lovely with singularity of
heavenly light, spiritual goodness, and God's sincere service, in the
darkest midnight of Satan's universal reign, and amidst the strangest
confusions, idolatrous corruptions, cruelties, oppressions, and lust—which
ever the earth bore. Noah, a very precious man, and preacher of
righteousness, and his family, were alone excepted. The true worship of God
was confined to them, when all the world besides lay drowned in idolatry and
paganism, ready to be swallowed up in a universal grave of waters, which was
already fashioned in the clouds by the angry, irresistible hand of the
all-powerful God, who was now so implacably—but most justly, provoked by
those rebellious and cruel generations, that he would not allow his Spirit
to strive any more with them; but inexorably resolved to open the windows or
floodgates of heaven, giving extraordinary strength of influence above, and
abundance to the fountains of the great deep, commanding them to cast out
the whole treasure and heap of their waters; and taking away the retentive
power from the clouds, that they might pour down immeasurably, for the
burying of all living creatures which breathed in the air. From whence, by
the way, before I break into my text, take this note.
Doctrine. The servants of God are men of singularity. I
mean it not in respect of any fantasticalness of opinion, furiousness of
zeal, or turbulency of faction, truly so called; but in respect of
abstinence from sin, purity of heart, and holiness of life.
1. God's holy word exacts and expects from all that are
born again, and heirs of heaven, an excellency above ordinary, Prov. 12:26;
Matt. 5:20, 41. Being taken forth as the precious from the vile, Jer. 15:19,
by the power of the ministry, they must not only go beyond the highest civil
perfections of the exact moral purity among the most honest heathens, Heb.
12:14—but also exceed the righteousness and all the outward religious
conformities of the most devout pharisees, who many thousands in these times
come short of, and yet hope to be saved: or they can in no case enter into
the kingdom of heaven. But, lest any be proudly puffed up with a sense of
this singularity and excellency above his neighbor, let him know that
humility is ever one of the fairest flowers in the whole garland of
supernatural and divine worth; and that self-conceit would poison even
2. They must upon necessity differ from a world of wicked
men, by a sincere singularity of abstinence from the course of this world,
the lusts of men, the corruptions of the times, familiarity with graceless
companions, the worldling's language, profane sports, all wicked ways of
thriving, rising, and growing great in the world, and so forth.
3. They make conscience of those duties and Divine
commands, which the greatest part of men, even in the noontide of the
gospel, are so far from taking to heart, that their hearts rise against
them. As, to be warm in religion, Rev. 3:16; to be zealous of good works,
Tit. 2:14; to walk precisely, Eph. 5:15; to be fervent in spirit, Rom.
12:11; to strive to enter in at the strait gate, Luke 13:24; to pluck out
their right eyes; that is, to abandon their bosom delights, Matt. 5:29; to
make the sabbath a delight, Isa. 53:13; to love the brotherhood, 1 Pet.
2:11; with a holy violence to lay hold upon the kingdom of heaven, Matt.
4. Experience, and examples of all ages, from the
creation downward, clearly prove the point. At this time, as you see, the
saints of God were all harbored under one roof, and yet not all sound there.
Survey the ages afterward—the time of Abraham, who was as a brand taken out
of the fire of the Chaldeans; the time of Elijah, when none appeared to that
blessed man of God; the time of Isaiah, who cried, "Who has believed our
report?" chapter 53:1; the time of Manasseh, who built altars for all the
army of heaven, in the two courts of the house of the Lord; the time of
Antiochus, when he commanded the sanctuary and holy people to be polluted
with swine's flesh, and unclean beasts to be sacrificed, the abomination of
desolation to be set up upon the altar; that darksome time when the glorious
Day-star, Christ Jesus himself, came down from heaven to enlighten the
earth; the time of Antichrist, when all the world wondered after the beast;
our times, wherein, of six parts of the earth, probably scarce one of the
least is Christian. And how much of Christendom is still overgrown with
popery, and other exorbitant distempers in point of religion. And where the
truth of Christ is purely and powerfully taught, how few give their names
unto it! and of those who profess, how many are false-hearted, or merely
5. Methinks worldly wisdom should rather wonder that any
one is won unto God, than cry out and complain, Is it possible there should
be so few? since all the powers of darkness, and every devil in hell,
oppose, might and main, the implanting of grace in any soul; since there are
more snares upon earth to keep us still in the invisible chains of darkness
and sin, than there are stars in heaven; since every inch, every little
artery of our bodies, if it could, would swell with hellish venom to the
bigness of the greatest Goliath, the mightiest giant, that it might make
resistance to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit; since our souls,
naturally, would rather die and put off their immortality and everlasting
being, than put on the Lord Jesus—in a word, since the new creation of a man
is held to be a greater work of wonder than the creation of the world.
6. Let us set aside in any country, city, town, family:
First, all atheists, papists, and distempered
heretics—from the blessed truth of doctrine taught in our church.
Secondly, all whoremongers, drunkards, swearers, liars,
revelers, worldlings, unjust, and fellows of such infamous rank.
Thirdly, all merely civil men, who come short of other
honest heathens, and, lacking holiness, shall never see the Lord, Heb.
Fourthly, all gross hypocrites, whose outsides are
painted with superficial flourishes of holiness and honesty—but their inward
parts filled with rottenness and lust, who have their hands in godly
exercises, when their hearts are in hell.
Fifthly, all formal hypocrites, who are deluded in point
of salvation, as were the foolish virgins, and that proud pharisee, Luke
Sixthly, all final backsliders, of which some turn
sensual epicures, and plunge themselves into worldly pleasures with far more
rage and greediness, by reason of former restraint by a temporary
profession; others become scurrilous deriders of the holy way; some, bloody
goads into the sides of those with whom they have formerly walked into the
house of God as friends.
Seventhly, all unsound professors for the present, of
which you would little think what a number there is.
I say, let these and all other strangers to the purity
and power of godliness be set apart, and tell me how many true-hearted
Nathaniels we are likely to find.
1. Try then the truth of your spiritual state by this
mark of a sober and sincere singularity. If you still hold correspondence
with the world, and conform to the fashions thereof, if still you swim down
the current of the times, and shift your sails to the turn of every wind; if
your heart still hankers after the tasteless fooleries of the popular, and
follow the multitude to do evil; if you are carried with the swing and sway
of the place where you live, to uphold, by a boisterous combination,
lewdness and vanity, to scorn profession, oppose the ministry, and walk in
the broad way. In a word, if you do as the most do, you are utterly undone
But if with a merciful violence you are pulled out of the
world by the power of the word, and happily weaned from the sensual,
insensible poison of all bittersweet pleasures, and fellowship with
unfruitful works of darkness; if, by standing on God's side, and hatred of
all false ways, you have become the drunkard's song, as David was, and a
by-word among the sons of Belial, as was Job; if the world lowers and looks
sour upon you for your looking towards heaven, and your fellows abandon you
as too precise; if your life be not like other men's, and your ways of
another fashion, as the epicures of those times charged the righteous man
when the Book of Wisdom was written; in a word, if you walk in the narrow
way, and be one of that little flock which lives among wolves, and therefore
must needs be little; so that by all the leopards, lions, and bears about
you, I mean all sorts of unregenerate men, you are hunted for your holiness
as a partridge on the mountains, at least by the poison and persecution of
the tongue—I say then you are certainly in the high way to heaven.
2. If the saints of God be men of singularity in the
sense I have said, then away with those base and brainless cavils against
those who are wise unto salvation. What! are you wiser than your
forefathers? than all the town? than such and such learned men? than your
own parents? Nay further, to Noah it might have been said by the wretches of
those times—Are you wiser than all the world? He, out of the height of his
heroical resolution, easily endured and digested the affronts and
indignities of this kind from millions of men. But take these spiteful
taunts, and bind them in the mean time as a crown unto you, and advance
forward in your holy singularity with all sweet content and undauntedness of
spirit, towards that glorious immortal crown above; and let those miserable
men, whose eyes are hoodwinked by Satan, and so blinded with earthly dust
that they cannot possibly discern the invisible excellences and true
nobleness of the neglected saints, follow the folly of their worldly wisdom,
and sway of the greater part, to endless woe, and then give believers leave
3. Let everyone, who in sincerity of heart seeks to be
saved, ever hold it a special happiness and his highest honor to be singled
out from the universal pestilent contagion of common profaneness, and the
sinful courses of the greatest part, and to be censured as singular in that
respect. Neither is this a singular thing that I now suggest—but it has been
the portion of the saints in all ages to be trod upon with the feet of
imperious contempt, as a number of odd despised underlings; whereas indeed
they are God's jewels, and the only excellent upon earth. "Behold," says
Isaiah, chapter 8:18, "I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for
signs and wonders in Israel." "I am as a wonder unto many," says David,
Psalm 71:7. "I am in derision daily, everyone mocks me," says Jeremiah,
chapter 20:7. "We are made," says Paul, "a spectacle unto the world, and to
angels, and to men," 1 Cor. 4:9. "We are made as the filth of the earth, the
off-scouring of all things," 4:13. In Augustine's time, those that made
conscience of their ways, dared not plunge into the corruptions of the
times, were scornfully pointed at, not only by pagans—but even by unreformed
professors, professors at large as we call them, as fellows that affected a
preciseness and purity above ordinary and other men—they would thus insult
and scoffingly fly in the face of such a holy one, "You are a great man,
sure you are a just man, you are an Elijah, you are a Peter, you come from
In after times, if a man were but merely civil,
ingenuous, chaste, temperate, he was made a by-word and laughing-stock to
those about him. They presently said—He was proud, singular, beside himself,
hypocrite, etc. Thus it was, is at this time, and will be to the world's
end, that every vile whoremonger, beastly drunkard, ignorant scoundrel,
scoffing Ishmael, and self-guilty wretch, will have a bitter sneer or
reproach to throw, like the madman's firebrand, into the face of God's
people, as though they were a company of nasty fellows, and a contemptible
generation. This, I say, ever was and ever will be the world's opinion of
the ways of God's people. The children of darkness ever harbor such
conceits, and peremptorily pass such censures upon the children of light.
It is strange, men are content to be singular in anything
but in the service of God, and the salvation of their souls! They desire,
and labor too, to be singularly rich, and the wealthiest in a town; to be
singularly proud, and in fashion by themselves; to be the strongest in the
company to pour in strong drink. They would, with all their hearts, be in
honor alone, and adored above others. They would dwell alone, and not allow
a poor man's house to be within sight. They affect singularity in wit,
learning, wisdom, valor, worldly reputation, and in all other earthly
honors; but they can by no means endure a singularity in zeal and the Lord's
service. In matters of religion they are resolved to do as the most do,
though in so doing they certainly damn their own souls, Matt. 7:13. Basest
cowardliness and fearfulness fit for such a doom! Rev. 21:8. They are afraid
of taking God's part too much, of fighting too valiantly under the colors of
Christ, of being too busy about the salvation of their souls, lest they
should be accounted too precise, fellows of an odd humor, and engrossers of
more grace than ordinary. It is one of Satan's dreadful depths, as wide as
hell, and brim-full with the blood of immortal souls, to make men ambitious
and covetous of singularity in all other things but in godliness and God's
services—not to allow it in themselves, and to persecute it in others.
Now, in this story of Noah, so highly honored with
singularity of freedom from the sinful contagion of those desperate times,
and happily exempted from that most general and greatest judgment upon earth
that ever the sun saw—a universal drowning—gloriously mounting up upon the
wings of salvation, and safety both of soul and body, when a world of
giant-like rebels sunk to the bottom of that new sea as a stone or lead, I
1. The cause of such a singular blessed preservation,
which was the free grace and favor of God; "But Noah found grace in the eyes
of the Lord," 5:8.
2. The renown and honor of Noah's name; in that he stands
here as the father of the new world, and the holy seed and progenitor of
Jesus Christ; "These are the generations of Noah," ver. 9.
3. The description of Noah's personal goodness,
preservation, and posterity. These latter two follow.
His personal description stands in the end of ver. 9;
"Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations; and Noah walked with
God," where we find him honored with three noble attributes, which make up
the character of a complete Christian—honesty, uprightness, and piety. And
they receive much excellency and luster from a circumstance of time; "In his
generations," which were many and mainly corrupt.
I. The CAUSE of such a singular blessed
preservation, which was the free grace and favor of God; "But Noah found
grace in the eyes of the Lord," 5:8.
Preservation is of God's Free Grace
Without any further unfolding my text's coherence and
dependence upon either precedent or following parts, (for historical
passages are plainer, and do not ever exact the length and labor of such an
exact resolution as other Scriptures do,) I collect from the first point,
wherein I find God's free grace to be the prime and principal cause of
Noah's preservation, this
Doctrine. The free grace and
favor of God are the first mover and fountain of all our good.
Consider for this purpose such places as these—Jer. 31:3; Hos. 14:4; Deut.
7:7, 8; Rom. 9:11, 12, 13; John 3:16; Josh. 24:2, 3; Eph. 1:5.
And it must needs be so. For it is utterly impossible
that any finite cause, created power, or anything out of God himself, should
primarily move and incline the eternal, immutable, uncreated, omnipotent
will of God. The true original and prime motive of all gracious, bountiful
expressions and effusions of love upon his elect, is the good pleasure of
his will. And therefore to hold that election to life is made upon foresight
of faith, good works the right use of free will, or any created motive, is
not only false and wicked—but also an ignorant and absurd tenet. To say no
more at this time, it robs God of his all-sufficiency, making him go out of
himself, looking to this or that in the creature, upon which his will may be
determined to elect. The school-men, though otherwise a rotten generation of
divines, yet are right in this.
Uses. 1. All praise then is due unto Jehovah, the Author
of all our good, the Fountain of all our bliss, the Well-spring of
immortality and life, "in whom we live and move, and have our being;" our
natural being, the being of our outward state; our gracious being; the
everlastingness of our glorious state. Were the holiest heart upon earth
enlarged to the vast comprehension of this great world's wideness; nay, made
capable of all the glorious and magnificent hallelujahs and hearty praises
offered to Jehovah, both by all the militant and triumphant church, yet
would it come infinitely short of sufficiently magnifying, admiring, and
adoring the inexplicable mystery and bottomless depth of this free,
independent mercy, and love of God, the Fountain and First Mover of all our
We may, and are bound to bless God for all the means,
instruments, and second causes, whereby it pleases him to confer and convey
good things unto us; but we must rest principally, with lowliest thoughts of
most humble and hearty praisefulness, at the well head of all our welfare,
Jehovah, blessed forever. We receive a great deal of comfort and light from
the moon and stars—but we are chiefly indebted to the sun; from the greater
rivers also—but the main sea is the fountain. Angels, ministers, and men may
please us—but Jehovah is the principal. Let us then imitate those lights of
heaven and rivers of the earth; do all the good we can with those good
things God has given us by his instruments; and then reflect back towards,
and return all the glory and praise unto, the Sun of righteousness and Sea
of our salvation. The beams of the moon and stars return as far back to
glorify the face of the sun, which gave them their beauty, as they can
possibly; so let us ever send back to God's own glorious self the honor of
all his gifts, by a fruitful improvement of them, in setting forth his
glory, and by continual fervent ejaculations of praise to the utmost
possibility of our renewed hearts.
And here I cannot forbear—but must needs most justly
complain of the hateful, intolerable unthankfulness of us in this kingdom,
the happiest people under the arch of heaven, had we hearts enlarged to
conceive aright of God's extraordinary love, and such miraculous mercies as
never any nation enjoyed. Walk over the world, peruse the whole face of the
earth from east to west, from north to south, and from one side of heaven to
another, you shall not find such another enlightened Goshen as this island
wherein we dwell. Of six parts of the earth, five are not Christian; and in
Christendom, what other part is so free from the reign of popery, the rage
of schism, or the destroying sword? Or where besides does the gospel shine
with such glory, truth, and peace? Or in what nook of the world are there so
many faithful souls who cry unto God day and night against the abominations
of the times, for the preservation of the gospel, that God's name may be
gloriously hallowed, his kingdom come, his will be done in every place, and
who themselves serve him with truth of heart?
And yet we are too ready, if we have not the height of
our desires, and our wills to the full, instead of patience, tears, and
prayers, which best become the saints, to embitter all other blessings, and
to discover most horrible unthankfulness for them, by repining, grumbling,
and discontent; by not rejoicing, as we ought, in every good thing which the
Lord our God has given unto us, and by not improving the extraordinariness
of his mercies to our more glorious service of him, and more humbly and
precisely walking before him.
Away then with all sour, melancholy, causeless, sinful
discontent; and "praise the Lord; sing unto the Lord a new song, and his
praise in the congregation of the saints. Let Israel rejoice in him who made
him—let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. For the Lord takes
pleasure in his people—he will beautify the meek with salvation. Let the
saints be joyful in glory—let them sing aloud upon their beds," Ps. 149:1,
2, 4, 5. In a word, let us of this island, as we have just cause above all
the nations of the earth, and above all ages of the church, from the very
first creation of it, praise Jehovah most heartily, infinitely, and forever.
2. Never reproach any for deformity of body, dullness of
mind, weakness of wit, poorness in outward state, baseness of birth, etc.
"For who makes you to differ from another?" 1 Cor. 4:7; either in natural
gifts, as loveliness of body, beauty, feature, stature, wit, strength, &c.;
see Job 10:10, 11; Ps. 139:13-15; in civil endowments, or any artificial
skill, until it comes even unto matters of husbandry; see Isa. 28:24-28; in
outward things; see Ps. 132; more particularly in preferment and promotion,
see Ps. 75:6, 7; in children, 1 Sam. 1:27; Psalm 127:3; in a good wife; see
Prov. 19:14; in spiritual things; see Ezek. 16; in anything you can name. We
are all framed of the same mold, hewed out of the same rock, made as it were
of the same cloth—the path of the scissors making the only difference
between one person an another. It is therefore only the free love and grace
of God which make all the difference. Whereupon it was an excellent speech
of a French king, as his chronicler reports—"When I was born, there were a
thousand other souls more born; what have I done unto God more than they? It
is his mere grace and mercy which does often bind me more unto his justice;
for the faults of great men are never small."
Let none then, I say, overlook, disdain, or brow-beat
their brethren, by reason of any extraordinary gifts, eminence of parts,
singularity of God's special favor, or indulgence towards him in any good
thing, which he denies to others. Especially, yourself being vouchsafed the
mercy of conversion, never insolently and imperiously demean those poor
souls who are beside themselves in matters of salvation, who, like miserable
drudges, damn themselves in the devil's slavery, and allow their corrupt
nature to carry them to any villainy, lust, or lewd course. Alas! our hearts
should bleed within us at beholding so many about us imbruing their cruel
hands in the blood of their own souls, by their ignorance, worldliness,
drunkenness, lust, lying, scoffing at piety, hating to be reformed, etc.
What heart, except it be hewed out of the hardest rock, or has sucked the
breasts of merciless tigers—but would yearn and weep to see a man made of
the same mold with himself wilfully, as it were, against the ministry of the
word, a thousand warnings, and God's many compassionate invitations, cast
himself, body and soul, into the endless, easeless, and remediless miseries
of hell? And the rather should we pity and pray for such a one who follows
the swing of his own heart to his own everlasting perdition, because the
matter whereof we were all made is so nearly alike; only the free mercy,
goodness, and grace of God make the difference. If God should give us over
to the unbridled current of our corrupt nature we might be as bad, and run
riot into a world of wickedness as well as he—if the same God visit him in
mercy, he may become every way as good, or better than we.
3. If the free love of God be the fountain of all our
good, away then with that feigned 'foresight of faith', right use of free
will, and good works, which should move God to elect before all eternity;
and that luciferian self-conceit of present merit, a fit monstrous brood of
that beast of Rome, "who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called
God," 2 Thess. 2:4. For 'foreseen meritorious works' are equally opposite to
grace—as works meritorious really existing. Here you must call to mind those
eight considerations which I opposed against that wicked tenet of merit,
which does justly deserve never to taste of God's free mercy.
II. Personal Goodness Brings Comfortable Blessings
The renown and honor of Noah's name; in that he stands
here as the father of the new world, and the holy seed and progenitor of
Jesus Christ. "These are the generations of Noah." Whereas the fame and
memorial of all the families upon earth besides lay buried and rotting in
the gulf of everlasting oblivion, as their bodies in the universal grave of
waters; the family of Noah, a righteous and holy man, is not only preserved
in safety from the general deluge—but his generations registered and
renowned in the book of God, and conveyed along towards the Lord Jesus, as
his progenitors and precedent royal line.
Doctrine. Personal goodness is a good means to bring
safety, honor, and many comfortable blessings upon posterity; see Deut.
5:29; Exod. 20:6; Ps. 37:25, 112:1-3; Prov. 20:1; 11:21; Acts 2:39.
1. Parents professing true religion make conscience of
praying for their children before they have them, as did Isaac and
Hannah; when their children were still in the womb. When they are born, as
did Zacharias. In the whole course of their lives, as did Job. At their own
death, as did Isaac—Gen. 25:21; 1 Sam. 1:10; Gen. 25:22; Luke 1:64; Job 1:5;
Gen. 27:4. And prayers, we know, are, for the procuring of all favor at the
hands of God, either for ourselves or others, the most undoubted sovereign
means we can possibly use.
2. Godly parents do infinitely more desire to see the
true fear of God planted in their children's hearts, than, if it were
possible, the imperial diadem of the whole earth set upon their heads. And
therefore their principal care is, and the crown of their greatest joy would
be, by godly example, pious education, daily instruction, loving
admonitions, seasonable reproofs, restraint from wicked company, the
corruptions of the times, etc., by all dearest means and utmost endeavors,
to leave them gracious when they die, and go out of this world. And
"godliness," says Paul, "has the promise of the life that now is, and of
that which is to come," 1 Tim. 4:8. It gives right and full interest to all
the true honor, blessings, and comforts, which are to be had in heaven or in
3. Children are ordinarily apt, out of a kindly instinct
of natural lovingness, from many and strongest motives, to imitate and
follow their parents either in baseness or godly demeanor, to heaven or
4. A father who truly fears God dares not to heap up
riches or purchase high stations for his children by wrong doing, or any
wicked ways of getting; whereupon both he and his family fare far the
better, and happily avoid the flaming edge of those many fearful curses
denounced in God's book against all unjust dealers. Such as that, Eccles.
5:13, 14, "There is a sore evil which I
have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for their owners to their hurt.
But those riches perish by evil use. And he brings forth a son, and nothing
is in his hand." And Hab. 2:9, 10, "You
are doomed! You have made your family rich with what you took by violence,
and have tried to make your own home safe from harm and danger! But your
schemes have brought shame on your family; by destroying many nations you
have only brought ruin on yourself."
Use. 1. Would you, then, have your little babes you love
so dearly, blessed upon earth, truly noble, God's favorites, and meet you in
heaven? The be holy yourself! Men are very careful and curious to have their
seed-corn and breed of cattle choice and generous; and will they not
endeavor to nurture, manage, and conduct the immortal souls of their
children with grace, by godly education, to the highest advancement of which
those noble natures are capable, to everlasting bliss, fruition of all
heavenly joys, and world without end?
2. This may also serve to reprove and correct those
covetous madmen that labor more to have their children great than good, rich
than religious. It is a madness of that kind which lacks terms to express
it—that a man should go to hell himself, and fit his children to follow him,
in seeking to establish his house and raise his posterity by sacrilege,
simony, bribery, usury, oppression—or any other course of cruelty and wrong.
For so they lay their foundation in fire-works, which is able to blow up
themselves and their posterity, body and soul, root and branch!
3. Let this fill the heart of the dying Christian with
sweetest peace. For, whereas the bloody knife of profane men's
unconscionable and cruel negligence in training up their children
religiously, does stick full deep in their souls, and, leaving this life,
they bequeath unto them the curse of God, together with their ill-gotten
goods. But the Christian happily finds his conscience, by reason of his
former thirsty desire and sincere endeavor to do his children good
spiritually, freed from the horror of such blood-guiltiness, and leaves them
to that comfortable outward estate which no injury or usury has impoisoned,
and to that never-failing providence of our heavenly Father, which then is
accustomed to work most graciously and bountifully for us, when we,
renouncing the arm of flesh, the favor of man, riches of iniquity, and all
such broken reeds, depend most upon it. If we must needs be our own carvers
for things of this life, either by right or wrong, fraud or fair dealing—so
that we may thrive and grow great in the world—then we are justly cast off
from all merciful care over us, and exposed to ruin and curse. But, if we
rest sincerely for ourselves and our family upon the all-powerful
Providence, it will never fail nor forsake us—but ever exercise and improve
its sweetness and wisdom for our true and everlasting good.
III. In the third point,
we have a description of Noah's spiritual state, which is the complete
character of a true Christian, consisting of three attributes—
I gather from the first attribute—Every truly religious
man is also a righteous and true-dealing man.
I gather from the second attribute—Sincerity is the sinew
and touchstone of true Christianity.
But these two I have so often pressed in the course of my
ministry, that I will pass by them at this time.
See what kind of honesty to men that is, which is not
accompanied with piety towards God; the same is that piety towards God which
is not attended with honesty to men. Dishonest religion, irreligious
honesty, insincere religion and honesty, are all of the same nature—and all
out of the right path. If you have respect only to the commandments of the
first table, and outward performance of religious services—but neglect
duties of the second, and conscientious interactions with your brethren, you
are but a pharisee and formal professor. If you deal justly with your
neighbor—and yet are a stranger to the mystery of godliness, cannot pray,
nor submit to a sincere and searching ministry, which the first table
enjoins, you are but a mere moral man. If you put on a flourish and outward
face only of obedience and conformity to both, and yet be true-hearted in
neither, as did the pharisees, Matt. 23:14-23, you are but a gross
hypocrite. Bear yourself holy towards God, honestly towards
man, and trueheartedly towards both, or you are nothing in Christ's
kingdom—but still in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity. Put on
righteousness and true holiness in this life, Eph. 4:24, or you shall never
put on a crown of glory in the life to come.
"In his generations," which were many, and mainly
corrupt, Noah stood out, and stuck unto God through so many ages, and
against so wicked a world; from which we may learn- Doctrine. That
consistency is ever an inseparable attendant upon
true Christianity. But because a double constancy is here
1. One in respect of continuance of time.
2. Another in respect of opposition to the corruptions of
I may observe two points.
1. Grace once truly rooted in the heart can never be
removed. See for this purpose, Matt. 24:24; 1 John 2:19, 21; John
10:28; Rom. 8:35, 38, 39; Luke 22:32; 2 Cor. 1:21, 22; Eph. 4:30, etc.
Proofs for this, may be taken from,
1. The dearness, strength, constancy, inviolableness of
God the Father's love unto his children. It is dearer than a mother's to
her sweetest babe, Isa. 49:15; it is stronger than the mountains, Isa.
54:10; it is as constant as the courses of the sun and moon and stars; of
the day and of the night, Jer. 31:35, 36, and 33:20, 21; it is as sure as
God himself, Ps. 89:33-35.
2. Christ's triumphant sitting down and intercession
at his Father's right hand; which may forever, with sweetest peace, and
freedom from slavish trembling, assure us of our rootedness in Christ,
constancy in grace, and everlasting abode with him in the other world. Being
once implanted into Christ by a lively fruitful faith, and blessedly knit
unto him by his Spirit, as fast as the sinews of his precious body are knit
unto his bones, his flesh to his sinews, and his skin to his flesh—he that
would tear us from Christ's mystical body, must pull him out of heaven, and
remove him from the right hand of his Father. What furious or infernal power
can or dare lay a finger on us in this kind? Christ has taken the poisoning
power out of everything that would hurt us, or would drag us to hell. He has
conquered, led captive, carried in triumph, and chained up forever, all the
enemies of our souls, and enviers of our salvation. They may, in the mean
time, exercise us for our good—but they shall never be able to execute their
malicious wills, or mortally hurt us, either here, or in the next life.
3. The irrevocable sealing of the blessed Spirit,
Eph. 1:13, 14, and. 4:30. And who or what can or dare reverse the deed, or
break up the seal of the Holy Spirit? Here then, as you see, the blessed
Trinity is the immovable ground of our continuing on in grace.
4. The lasting and immortal power of the word when once
rooted in a good and honest heart, Luke 8:15; 1 Pet. 1:23.
5. The certainty and sweetness of promises to this
purpose, Jer. 32:39, 40; Zech. 10:12; John 8:12; 2 Sam. 7:14, 15; Ps.
6. The force and might of faith, 1 Pet. 1:2-9.
7. The efficacy of Christ's prayer, Luke 22:32; John
17:15-20; Rom. 8:34.
8. The durable vigor of saving graces, John 4:14;
9. The inability, nay, impossibility, of all causes or
creatures to pluck out of God's hand, John 10:29, or to draw any of his
redeemed children to a total or final falling away. It is not the devil
himself can do it, 1 John 5:18. It is not the world, 1 John 5:4; John 16:33.
It is not the concurrent fury and united forces of all the powers of
darkness, Matt. 16:18. It is not sin, 2 Sam. 7:14, 15; Ps. 89:81, 32. It is
not weakness of faith, or other graces, Matt. 12:20. It is not the imposture
of false prophets, Matt. 24:24. It is no creature, or created power, Rom.
1. This point, thus confirmed, does confound that forlorn
tenet of the popish teachers, which tells us that a justified and sanctified
man may fall finally and totally from grace. In which I have heretofore upon
another occasion, in your hearing, punctually refuted those which I
conceived Bellarmine's best arguments. I will not now trouble you with his
2. This sweet and precious truth may crown the hearts of
all those who are truly Christ's with unspeakable and glorious joy. Let new
converts and babes in Christ, who are accustomed to be very fearful and much
troubled lest they should not hold out, because upon their first entrance
into the ways of christianity they are cunningly and concurrently
encountered with so many oppositions—from the devil, who then rages
extraordinarily; from the world, which then offers more and more alluring
baits; from the flesh, which naturally is very impatient of any spiritual
restraint; from carnal friends, who cannot endure their change; from their
old companions, who cry out, 'they are turning puritans'; from the times,
which discourage and look sourly upon their zeal; sometimes from the father
who begat them; from the mother who nursed them; from the wife who lies in
their bosom; from a world of enemies to grace.
I say, in such a case, let them grasp in the arms of
their faith the proofs and promises in the present point, and ride on,
because of the word of truth. Let them sweetly, with full assurance and
unconquerable resolution, repose upon that everlasting encouragement, for
the finishing of their spiritual building, which Zerubbabel received from
the mouth of God himself, for success of the material building, a type of
this—"Not by might nor by power—but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.
Who are you, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain;
and he shall bring forth the head stone thereof with shoutings, crying,
Grace, grace unto it," Zech. 4:6, 7.
And that they may more comfortably and constantly go on,
let them often cast their eyes upon these and the like cautions, at their
very first giving their names unto Christ.
(1.) Propose such interrogations as these to your
own heart—Are you content to abandon your bosom sin, and the sensual froth
of former pleasures, hereafter to delight in God, as your chief joy? Can you
take up your cross, and follow Christ, his truth and holy ways, amidst the
many by-paths that lead to hell, and different opinions of multitudes of
men? Are you willing to suffer adversity, disgrace, and ridicule—with the
righteous and despised godly ones? Can you endure to have things laid unto
your charge, which you never did, thought, or dreamed of; to become the
drunkard's song; a by-word to those that are viler than the earth; to be the
song of ridicule at their feasts? Lam. 3:63. In a word—can you, for Christ's
sake, deny yourself, your worldly wisdom, natural wit, carnal friends, old
companions, pleasures, profits, preferments, ease, excellency of learning,
acceptance with the world, outward state, liberty, life, or whatever else
you can name dearest unto flesh and blood? If your heart answers not
affirmatively, (I mean, out of the resolution of a well-advised regenerate
judgment; for I know the flesh will grumble and reclaim,) you will certainly
fall away, or end in formality.
(2.) Look to your repentance—that it be sincere,
universal, constant, from the heart, for all known sins—to your dying day.
1. If some worldly cross be the continued principal motive of your
repentance —2. or the humor of melancholy —3. if it be confusedly only for
sin, and in general—4. or for some one special notorious sin only —5. or for
some lesser sins, with neglect of greater, as for tithing mint, etc.—6. if
it be only legal—7. but for some sins, of what kind soever; leaving but so
much as one known sin not taken to heart—8. or but for a time—all will come
to naught. A foundation of godly sorrow, deliberately, advisedly, and
sincerely laid at first, will be forever after a comfortable encouragement
to faith, spiritual joy, well-doing, and walking with God.
(3.) Take the touchstone of fruitful, powerful, and
special marks, to discern and distinguish justifying saving faith from all
false and insufficient faiths; for a temporary faith may go far.
(4.) Let knowledge and love grow up together in you, and
mutually transfuse spiritual vigor into each other. Presume not upon any
knowledge, without a humble inflamed love. Neither build too much upon the
heat of zeal, without the light of knowledge—either of these may be single
and superior in some, who afterwards may shamefully fall away.
(5.) Above all things, look unto your heart. If your
outward reformation were angelical, in words, actions, and all external
demeanor—and yet your heart remained unchanged, you are but a painted tomb,
and cannot be saved. Let a man take a wolf, beat it black and blue, break
its bones, knock out its teeth, cut away its claws, put upon it a sheep's
skin—yet still it retains its wolfish nature. In like manner, let a man
become ever so harmless outwardly, yet without a new heart all is in vain.
(6.) Incorporate yourself into the company of God's
people, by all engagements and obligations of a profitable, intimate, and
comfortable fellowship in the gospel. There is a secret tie unto
perseverance, in the communion of saints. He is not likely to walk long that
walks alone, especially if he might enjoy good company. Shunning society
with the godly, is a plain sign of a temporary faith.
(7.) Consider well (for the contrary is a notable
discovery of counterfeits) that your calling to grace must settle you more
surely in your honest particular employment; and make you therein more
faithful, conscientious, and laborious.
Let Christians also of longer standing, and more strength
in their assaults on perseverance, have recourse unto this tower of truth,
and labor to prevent that which they fear.
1. By constancy, in a careful use of all the means; the
word, prayer, conference, meditation, sacraments, etc. To which, let them
preserve their love, and practice what they hear, without omission or delay.
He who gives way to a heartless neglect, or customary hardness of heart, in
the use of the ordinances, may justly suspect his nearness to some fearful
sin, or fierce temptation, to some heavy judgment, or dangerous apostasy.
2. As soon as they discover any spiritual weakness or
decay, assault or temptation, let them often flee unto the throne of grace,
and mightily oppose with the most fervent prayers of extraordinary private
3. Let them keep perfection single in their eye and aim;
and, towards the attainment thereof, acquire and acquaint themselves with
rules of holy life, daily directions, and ways of the most godly and
4. Let them watchfully deny all occasions of falling
back—spiritual pride, known hypocrisy, desire to be rich, undervaluing and
declining the most searching means, negligence in pious duties,
discontinuance of intimateness with the godly, etc.
5. Let them consider that all which is past is lost, if
they fall off, 2 John 8.
This former point of constancy in grace did arise from a
consideration of blessed Noah's continuance in goodness through so many
ages. Now, in that he did not conform to the iniquities of the times—but did
stand unstained, amidst the most wicked generations which ever dwelt upon
earth, I gather the necessity of another constancy, and that is in respect
of opposition to the corruptions of times.